Photographing the Kamokuna Lava Ocean Entry at Night
On December 31st there was a drastic change to the shoreline at the Kamokuna ocean entry. The lower shelf that the lava once gradually flowed over before entering into the ocean as well as part of an old lookout point fell into the ocean. Somewhere around 17 acres of land suddenly disappeared. I had to go see it and so as a last minute plan we headed over. I couldn’t believe the amount of roadblocks we encountered on the way. Dead car battery, flat bike tires, missing headlamps, and an accident that closed the road for 30min. While sitting in traffic I turned to my wife and said. “I don’t think we’re gonna make it in time.” At that point we considered abandoning the mission, but to our surprise the road opened up and we were on our way. Lucky it did because I don’t know when we would be able to get back over there.
The trail was light with people, so we were able to ride with ease without having to worry about everyone and made it with plenty of daylight to spare. When we came prior to the collapse, in August of 2016, the road went on further and we were able to get close to the lava. Close enough where we were able to see a lot of action with our naked eyes. Now the new lookout puts us several hundreds of yards away. The action is harder to see without binoculars or zoom lenses. With the amount of smoke billowing off of the entry even seeing the lava is difficult. A gust of wind would swoop in and push the smoke where we would get a glimpse of the large lava river draining into the ocean. It was impressive to see even with the great distance.
My family walked around and explored all the viewing areas while I found a spot I liked and didn’t move from that spot the entire time we were there. With the small crowds of people I wanted to make sure that I had a front row spot where I didn’t need to worry about someone moving in front of me. Even still I had the occasional tourist think I was their husband and stand next to me while telling me about how they nearly fell down in the dark. I would slowly look up and watch them get flustered with embarrassment and walk away. Strangely enough it happened more than once.
My lens of choice was the 300mm telephoto for the distance. It was windy, so I needed to weigh the tripod down with my bag and crank down all the setting nobs. I also used a cable release and waited for the wind to die down before taking the shots in order to reduce camera shake. Any slight movement while fully zoomed in will move the composition a couple feet.
It was at night that the lava glowed and showed life with a lot of small explosions. I decided to capture the night sky with my wide angle before leaving. I took 8 to 10 – 30 second shots while my kids grew impatient. They were definitely ready to start the long bike ride back and get something to eat.
As I stepped off my bike at the car I was relieved the bike ride was over. Any longer and the extra hard, value engineered, cheap ass seat would have to be surgically removed from me. It has been a couple weeks since then, but I swear I walk differently now. We had fun.
© Christopher Johnson
View more lava images – http://www.fromhereonin.com/volcanic-activity/